Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a strength that can help us in so many different ways. In addition to boosting our mental health and well-being, it is the secret sauce of great leadership

Daniel Goleman, one of the godfathers of emotional intelligence, has long established it as a key leadership skill for managing personal relationships. In 1998, he penned the classic Harvard Business Review article "What Makes a Leader," where he made this indisputable statement:

The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It's not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but ... they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. My research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won't make a great leader.

That aside, did you know that emotional intelligence can also increase your income? Drastically increase it?

Raise your income by $29,000

That's right. According to research, people with high levels of emotional intelligence earn an average of $29,000 more annually than those with less emotional intelligence. Research just gave you 29,000 good reasons to improve yours.

Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, conducted the study in which his team tested the EQ of over 42,000 people and compared their scores with their annual incomes.

In his report, Bradberry states, "The road to higher income is paved with the quality of your relationships. People earn more money as they become more emotionally intelligent."

How to increase your EQ

The road to higher emotional intelligence is not a destination, it's a journey. But the path along the journey to building up your EQ skills will pay off in many ways, including enlarging your bank account.

There is a plethora of strategies, suggestions, and ideas floating around the internet about how to best boost your EQ. To simplify, here are four foundational ways to do it with good practice and intentionality.

1. Raise your self-awareness

This is the first part of emotional intelligence and involves familiarizing yourself with your emotions. Ever wonder why you feel the way you do sometimes, often leaving you confused? In boosting your self-awareness, you understand why certain situations or people make you sad, happy, angry, or ecstatic. So get to know your emotions--it will help you, especially when working and collaborating with difficult personalities in close quarters.

2. Learn self-control.

A leader with high emotional intelligence is able to redirect disruptive emotions and
impulses and not jump to any hasty conclusions. When a team botches a delivery, a leader with EQ resists the urge to go off and point fingers. She will step back, look at all the possible reasons why things didn't work out as planned, explain the consequences to her team, and explore solutions with them.

3. Practice empathy.

Making sure employees feel valued is a prerequisite of great managers. Showing empathy around their experience--by seeking feedback--is one of the critical steps to achieving that. First, listen intently with your mind and heart, without judgment. Then switch the script in your head from "driving people to perform" to serving their needs so they feel empowered to thrive. When you do that, you'll have more opportunities for practicing empathy.  

4. Be visible to others.

During the hard times, leaders with a high degree of EQ don't hide behind closed doors or conveniently delegate important communication needs to others. They are out on the front lines sharing plans for the future, addressing questions and concerns, and calming fears and apprehensions. Employees look to such leaders for information, clear expectations, and the status of what's going on when the chips are down. This is why visible and approachable leaders will "walk their four corners." They check in with their people and personally answer questions to ensure the trust is ongoing and people feel safe.

Truth be told, not every personality is wired for naturally solving problems with soft-skill solutions as posed above. If this is your challenge, do what most good leaders do: Invest in hiring a good coach who can help facilitate your process of self-discovery to raise your EQ. As you gain new awareness, integrate the behavioral change into daily decision making and personal interactions. Then watch your income grow.